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Packers Have Backup Plan at Offensive Tackle

The Packers, without a true offensive tackle to come off the bench, are expected to sign Dennis Kelly, a source confirmed.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers have 16 offensive linemen on their roster. Of the 11 potential backups, none are a pure offensive tackle.

That should changed. As first reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and confirmed by Packer Central, the Packers plan on signing veteran Dennis Kelly. The transaction is pending Kelly passing a physical upon arriving in Green Bay.

The signing is a natural – and one suggested four months ago.

With David Bakhtiari recovering from his torn ACL, the Packers lined up for Day 1 of training camp with left guard Elgton Jenkins moving out to left tackle and Billy Turner at his customary spot at right tackle. Ben Braden and Jon Runyan split the left guard snaps, Lucas Patrick was at right guard and rookie Josh Myers was the center.

The No. 3 tackle spot is valuable. In 2020, Rick Wagner played almost 60 percent of the offensive snaps. In 2019, the Packers might not have made it to the NFC Championship without Jared Veldheer coming off the bench for the playoff win vs. Seattle.

Kelly started five games for the Titans in 2018, when Packers coach Matt LaFleur was Tennessee’s offensive coordinator. The 31-year-old has been a full-time starter twice in his career – once as a rookie fifth-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012 and again last year with the Titans, when he played 1,046 snaps at right tackle.

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According to Pro Football Focus, he didn’t allow any sacks last season. Of 58 offensive tackles with 350 snaps in the passing game, Kelly ranked 23rd in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency, which measures sacks (zero), hits (11) and hurries (15) per pass-protecting snap. For comparison, Turner, ranked 28th and Wagner was 25th.

In helping rampaging running back Derrick Henry, Kelly was found guilty of five stuffs (a tackle at or behind the line of scrimmage), a rate of 1.0 percent. Again, for comparison, Wagner’s stuff rate was 0.4 percent and Turner was 0.9 percent.

Kelly was guilty of two penalties and hasn’t been flagged for holding since 2016. He turned 31 in January and was released by Tennessee in March. He has played in 104 games with 47 starts.

Listed at 6-foot-8 and 321 pounds, he became the heaviest player in NFL history to score a playoff touchdown with a catch vs. Kansas City in the 2019 AFC Championship Game.

With his size and long hair, he attracts attention.

“There's a couple of different responses that I get (when I'm out),” Kelly said in 2020. “I get, ‘Why are you so big? You must do something.’ Being so big, people will ask if it's basketball if they don't know who I am. (Titans fans who know me) say, ‘I love what you do for the team and the city. Good game yesterday.’

“There hasn’t been a lot of ‘Undertaker, what’s up?’ But there’s a handful of wrestling fans that come up and we talk a little bit.”